Pain and loss of John-Paul Conley's death "too much for Kate to bear", says family

The Northern Echo: Kate Downey with John-Paul Conley Kate Downey with John-Paul Conley

THE girlfriend of a man who was swept to his death in Laos last year has been found dead – just days before a charity tribute evening in his memory.

Kate Downey, from Middlesbrough, was the girlfriend of John-Paul Conley, who was swept to his death in November after swimming in a river on the Don Phon island in Laos.

Police said no-one else was involved in the death of Miss Downey in a Premier Inn in Newcastle on Saturday, after concerns were raised for her welfare.

The tragedy comes just days before a tribute evening was due to be held in honour of 35-year-old Mr Conley in Acklam, Middlesbrough.

Today, Kate’s brother Lee Downey posted on a tribute website: “For those who knew them Kate Downey and John-Paul Conley are now together forever.

“The pain and loss has proved too much for Kate to bear. Hope you have found your Shangri-la, having the next great adventure with Jonny. RIP our beautiful sister.”

The Northern Echo:

A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police told The Northern Echo: “At 12.25pm on Saturday (March 14), police were informed of concern for a woman in a hotel room in the Premier Inn in Ponteland Road in Woolsington.

“Police and paramedics attended and a woman in her 30s was pronounced dead at the scene. There is believed to be no third-party involvement and a report will be prepared for the coroner.”

A tribute night to Mr Conley, in aid of the RNLI and featuring local bands, was due to be held with the support of his family this Friday but has now been cancelled.

Organisers said: “In light of the tragic news this weekend Friday night will obviously not be going ahead at such a terrible time for both the families and the loved ones of Kate and John-Paul. Our thoughts and love are with them all.”

Mr Conley’s family was too upset to speak about the tragedy tonight.

He had been away travelling for a year with Miss Downey when he was swept away while swimming in a river on Don Khon island in Laos, East Asia.

He was missing for four days, in which time well-wishers raised more than £30,000 to fund helicopter sweeps of the river, and fishing boats were drafted in to search for him. His body was later found swept up on a beach.

Miss Downey, a former Nunthorpe School pupil who was understood to be an archaeologist, was described as “amazingly strong” by her brother at the time of the search.

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